Managing Tipping Point Dynamics in Single Development Projects

Report Number: NPS-PM-06-084

Series: Program Management

Category: System Dynamics

Report Series: Proceedings Paper

Authors: David N. Ford, Tim Taylor

Title: Managing Tipping Point Dynamics in Single Development Projects

Published: 2006-04-01

Sponsored By: Acquisition Research Program

Status: Published--Unlimited Distribution

Research Type: NPS Faculty

Full Text URL:

Keywords: Resource Allocation, Nuclear Plant Construction, Project Management, Tipping Point, Robustness, System Dynamics


Previous system dynamics work models the tipping of a series of product development projects into fire-fighting mode in which rework overwhelms progress. Similar dynamics also threaten the performance of individual development projects. The current work extends previous tipping point dynamics research to single projects and demonstrates how a simple, common feed-back structure can cause complex tipping point dynamics, trap projects in deteriorating modes of behavior, and cause projects to fail. Basic tipping point dynamics in single projects are described, analyzed, and demonstrated with the model. Previous researchers have recommended dynamic resource allocation policies to improve project performance threatened by tipping point dynamics. Several strategies for managing projects near tipping points were tested. Policies that were successful in preventing tipping point-based project failure include forecasting demand-based resource policies, policies that provided flexible resource adjustments, and policies that adjusted project deadlines based upon project performance.